Who provides oversight?

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Lost in much of the Iowa political discussion of late is the deep red hue that the capitol has taken. Gov. Kim Reynolds looks strong in her position, having soundly defeated Fred Hubbell. The GOP enjoys a strong majority in the Senate (32-18) and controls the House (54-46). Democrats have a longshot chance to retake control of the lower chamber, but it would take divine intervention to win the Senate in 2020.

Even if Democrats take back the House, their only power will be to block bad legislation or slow it down. They will not be able to undo the damage that consolidated Republican overreach has done to the courts, education and collective bargaining rights for public employees. The privatization of Medicaid will continue to suck an extra $100 million, at least, to keep the two private insurers running the system on board; meanwhile, more nursing homes, rural health care providers, and the working poor with children and frail elderly will suffer.

Until the unlikely event of something changing, it falls on Attorney General Tom Miller and Auditor Rob Sand to stand up against the assault. With State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, they can share a bully pulpit to call out the Republican leadership on its excesses. Miller and Sand have far more legal authority than Fitzgerald to influence state government. We hope that Fitzgerald can lead them there.

The auditor can investigate and refer matters to the attorney general. Sand says he is conducting an investigation of Medicaid that is under wraps, how public funds have been used, and whether anything was illegal. There should be a thorough and ongoing investigation into how the Iowa Finance Authority has wasted public funds as a former director was enshrouded in scandal while its oversight board looked the other way.

Iowans elected Sand along with Reynolds in 2018 to provide a check on her. We have kept Miller in office since Heck was a pup for much the same reason. They are not the types of politicians prone to confrontation. But it is their obligation to the state to put a leash on lurches, hubris, and faulty Medicaid administration in the here and now, using every tool and breath of energy they have. Nobody else can protect the public from one-party government in Des Moines. We are counting on them.

Fluidity with candidates

Last weekend’s Iowa Poll of the Democratic presidential field and subsequent national polls show a lot of fluidity. Joe Biden leads the field in Iowa with 24%, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Biden and Sanders appear to be losing some support and Warren is picking up steam. Ann Selzer, who conducts the poll, observed some stratification. There is a top tier, a middle tier and a bottom tier, and the public would like to see a narrower field than 23.

Biden has not locked up Iowa. He is hearing a few chirps that he is not working the state hard enough. Sanders might be losing support to progressive Warren, but he has an intensely loyal base that almost guarantees him life through the cycle. Likely caucus-goers are bouncing around among candidates. Just half the campaigns have visited Storm Lake so far. Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris and Booker haven’t shown up — we think that is a big problem by this date, and sends a message to rural Democrats. Warren has visited — twice. She is working rural Iowa hard. She has perhaps the deepest team with the most caucus talent. We visited with a longtime Biden supporter, a door-knocker type from Cedar Rapids, who is gnashing her teeth over his lack of organization and outreach. Nobody from Biden’s campaign has contacted this longtime foot soldier. But Booker has, and she is thinking hard about him.

A couple weeks ago it was Mayor Pete with the Big Mo. Last week it was Warren. In two weeks Beto O’Rourke might regain the spotlight — he, too, has a strong organization and commitment here. The bottom tier will fade pretty quickly as this summer progresses. It is already starting and will pick up with the debates. What the polls prove to us is that caucus-goers have not made up their minds, and that organization plus a strong, coherent message is the sure way to win Iowa. That’s why Warren is moving up.

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